READ: Matthew 4:12-25
12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.
13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,
14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
19 And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.
22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
I was at a meeting at Seminary of the East in Auburn, MA. All of us were new to one another, so we went around the room and told where our ministry was and what we did. I told everyone I am the pastor of Nottingham Congregational Church in... well... I just got all these blank looks. Finally one tweedy type asked the obvious: where is Nottingham?
Don't they teach geography in schools these days?
Nottingham, of course, is just a little closer to Manchester than to Portsmouth, but nearly on a straight line between the two. By going just a bit to one side of Portsmouth it is an easy run of about the same distance to Rochester. But the best and closest bay with a port of any size is really at Boston. These are all very famous places that trip off my friends' lips with that known familiarity that comes from living in a place for a long time. The only problem is that I was just describing Nottingham, UK, not Nottingham, NH.
As Jesus began his ministry he moved away from all that was familiar to him in Nazareth. But do we know anything about how far he went when he moved? Nazareth is generally in the northern part of Israel, about 94 miles north of Jerusalem. Nazareth is, however, only about 29 miles from Capernaum, which sits almost at the northern-most point of the Sea of Galilee. So it wasn't like Jesus was going off to a foreign land. Capernaum is part of the same district as Nazareth. The whole area is sometimes called "Galilee of the Gentiles" because it is so close to Lebanon and Syria. In fact, it is a toss-up as to which is closer to Nazareth: Jerusalem or Damascus.
Why does any of this matter? Perhaps God was "saying" something to the world by having Jesus conduct most of his public ministry way up in Capernaum. If his intent was only to offer the gospel to those of Jewish ancestry, he probably would have left Jesus in Bethlehem, only 6 miles from Jerusalem, and fairly well centered on the territory of Israel. But for Jesus to spend most of his time closer to Beruit and Damascus than to Jerusalem is like saying, "Messiah is not going to come just to Israel. He's coming for ALL."
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.